One of my 2011 resolutions was to host dinner guests once a month. I got out my calendar at the end of October to see how 2012 was stacking up: one couple in February, a sit-down for eight in September, and chili on the porch with the Joneses one night in October. So much for hostessing the mostess.
I’ve been playing catch up in the waning weeks of oh-twelve, to see if I can’t raise my average. A couple of weekends ago, Amy and her family came over for pizza and a long overdue visit, and brought Chinese sky lanterns for our after-dinner amusement.
(They also brought Capital Hotel Spiced Pecans, thereby securing their place on the preferred dinner guest list for years to come.)
I’ve seen photos of sky lantern festivals here and there, and have been curious to see them for real ever since, but the orange-safety-belt-wearing Canadian in me was silently apprehensive at the idea of launching flames into our suburban sky. Wasn’t it dangerous? And what would our neighbors think? I sort of hoped everyone would forget the whole idea after a few drinks.
I forgot about it, anyway, and was chatting away with Amy, not realizing that the guys had gone outdoors with the kids until Patrick came in hollering to come out and “see this!”
I pulled on my sweater, picked up my glass, and stepped outside into a state of wonder.
As I watched each lantern rise into the clear, cold night sky, my safety concerns floated away with them. The hot air drives the paper balloon quickly above the tree line, where it continues to rise until the flame is extinguished.* What drifts back down to the ground is cold and (in our case) biodegradable. So ingenious. So enchanting. I was mesmerized.
But I was still a bit worried about the neighbors. Confession: I am not a very neighborly neighbor. I don’t know most of the people who live around me. I don’t mean to be unfriendly–I just tend to keep my head down. I fully appreciate the irony of saying this on my very personal, very public blog, but I am actually a very private person at home.
Anyway, I was rehearsing what to say when they inevitably came out with hoses and pitchforks, when I noticed my across-the-street neighbor, a young mom, standing in the dark of her lawn, watching the lanterns go up with the same expression of awe I was feeling. No sooner had I waved her to come on over, people started coming down the street from all directions–the family from a few doors up, some young couples on a double date. Amy’s husband started handing out lanterns — he must have brought fifty of them or more.
You know what a very young child’s face looks like when someone hands them a helium balloon?
Every one of our faces, old and young, looked that way. All of us drawn together by the light.
It was one of the most beautiful, primal, communal experiences of my life. An amazing gift. Thank you, Amy and Nick.
*There was one slightly worrisome second when one of the lanterns got snagged in the high branches of an oak tree. It quickly drifted free, but I would launch from a more open area next time, like a field, as the product packaging suggests. And invite all the neighbors to meet us there.